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Jim sat bolt upright in bed. His forehead was clammy, his heart beating ridiculously fast. Disoriented in the dim light, he pressed his head between sweaty palms and tried to focus. Slowly but surely, dream separated from reality and his breathing slowed.

"Jim?" Spock inquired. He had moved from the desk to sit beside his t'hy'la on their bed. He sat precariously close, by careful restraint not touching Jim in his turmoil, leaving that choice to the human.

Jim edged a little farther away and flopped backwards onto the pillows. "Sorry," he said ruefully. "Just one of those things." He wiped his brow and turned into Spock's concerned gaze. "Have you ever had a dream that seemed so real that even after waking, you weren't sure how things stood? Not been able to tell what was real and was unreal?"

Spock considered the question and categorized it as rhetorical: a direct answer was not required. "I understand. You had a realistic nightmare."

"No," Jim said flatly. "This was all real." He swallowed hard and stalked off to the head.

Bladder emptied and face splashed, he felt immeasurably better. The command persona returned and relegated the grief and pain to simmer in a far corner of his mind. Later they would be there waiting for him, still oppressively warm and ominously sweet, but right now he had other priorities.

When Jim emerged he was again the sunny vibrancy that had blazed without restriction through Spock's erstwhile barren soul. He hopped back onto the bed, casually displaying himself, buck naked, on top of the covers. "So," said Kirk, stretching himself, "are you just going to sit there and watch, or are you coming to bed?"

Spock raised an eyebrow. "While both options have some appeal, I believe I will avail myself of the latter." So saying, Spock rose to strip. He peeled back the covers and slid into bed, tenting the sheet in invitation.

Grinning, Jim crawled underneath and curled up on the arm of his love. "Good answer," he mumbled into Spock's neck. Face clear and serene, Jim settled down as if to sleep.

Spock slipped into a light meditative state, restful, yet lingering in the twilight of percipience. He noted that despite Jim's evident distress mere moments ago, the willful human had his formal thoughts firmly shielded. The vague empathic emanations of warmth, gratitude and affection were there--as strong as ever--but there was something else. A crying need for reassurance, for something unnamed. A need to be with.

"Jim," Spock said to the man not sleeping beside him, "is there anything you wish to discuss?"

Defeated, Jim gave up the pretense. "Yes," he sighed, "but I can't." He felt Spock tense almost imperceptibly. "Not by my choice," Jim hastened to add. "I promised someone else." He sighed. "I wish I could talk with you. I need you right now. Badly."

"Surely you know that you have me. Now or at anytime."

"I don't mean physically, exactly. I don't mean sex. I just--" Jim shook his head. His voice trailed off.

"Jim, it is my intention to be here for you in any way that may be salutary. If you cannot tell me what is distressing you, then I suggest you simply tell me what it is that you need."

"Life," Jim said. "I need to feel that life goes on. That what we are is real and endures beyond today." He paused, "Spock, I feel something cold, like a bitter wind blowing around me, taking my breath and creeping closer and closer. I need a buffer...a shield of...life and warmth and love to keep it at bay."

Spock hugged him close. The captain of the Enterprise relaxed into his embrace as naturally as if he had been doing it all his life. If by perchance he hadn't so far, he certainly would for the remainder of it.

With the back of his hand, Spock lightly brushed Jim's cheek, the chin, the chest. Jim's breathing grew heavy. Spock's hand moved softly over Jim's stirring genitals. Delicately he fingered Jim's testes and teased the velvety skin around the anus.

"Jim," Spock began in a throaty voice. "What you desire, is that not also a reasonable description of sexual intimacy?"

Jim chuckled under his breath. He turned onto his side to wriggle his now-hard penis into the harbor of Spock's hip. "Yes," he smiled, "I would say that it is."

Tenderly then, they loved each other, chasing the cold specter of death far away from the room.

Thirty minutes later, Jim was still awake. Spock slumbered beside him, eyes open and fixed sightlessly on the ceiling. Not wanting to disturb, Jim rolled out of bed, threw on his uniform and quietly withdrew from the room. He wasn't quite sure where he wanted to go, but he did know the one person he wanted to see--alive. Decided, he made the turn to McCoy's quarters.

When he pressed the signal for the third time, Kirk realized he no longer expected an answer. Were he in, the doctor would answer any call, any time. After a brief moment Kirk turned for the nearest turbolift and went straight to Deck 5.

The captain swooped into Sickbay to find it in semi-darkness. A feathery figure jumped up from the computer. "Captain!" Christine Chapel exclaimed in surprise. "I'm sorry, sir." She gestured at her decidedly non-regulation attire. She wore some sort of ridiculous half-caftan that dangled from one shoulder and appeared to defy the laws of physics to somehow cover the most significant body parts. "I couldn't sleep, so I came down to do some research. Do you need something, sir?" she asked, doing her best to look professional.

"At ease, nurse. It's all right. I was just looking for Dr. McCoy."

She gave him a funny look. It was more than three hours into the captain's sleep shift, but she let it drop. Certainly he didn't have to explain that particular problem to her.

"He's not here, Sir. I think he was going to Engineering to talk with Technician Chen. His son knows Joanna somehow," she added, by way of explanation.

Kirk nodded. Leonard's daughter. Progeny. Continuance. Life from life. "I won't interrupt then.

"Christine," he began hesitantly, "is he all right? Emotionally, I mean."

She sighed. "I think so, Captain, but he's so proud it's hard to tell. He won't let anyone in. If he weren't the man he is, I'd call it denial, but in his case I think it is just plain hard-headedness. For as many patients as he has comforted through death and life, he insists on doing this alone. I just don't understand."

She thumped the desk in frustration. "And he won't even try to help himself. I have to sneak around him to access the bio-comps. He says it's pointless and for me to stay out of his business."

"Bio-comps?" Kirk repeated, startled. "Why do you need bio-comps? He said there was no cure? Is that true or isn't it?" His snap sounded much harsher than he had intended.

"Well, there isn't one as of yet," she stressed, "but that isn't the point. How often have you known him to give up on any other patient? But now that it is for himself--" Her voice trailed off.

She recovered admirably. "So I had to do something. I put a call in to the Putexa clinic where Roger used to work. They are the premier research site in the Federation for hematology and immunology. According to what I'm finding, there is a vinsclerotin analog that has shown promise in slowing, if not stopping, cell division.

"But Leonard...I mean, Dr. McCoy, won't even talk about it. He just talks about 'making things right while there's time'." She stopped, visibly distraught, and pressed her palms down flat onto the desk. She pinched her eyes shut.

"Nurse Chapel--" Kirk began quietly.

"No, I'm all right, Captain," she said, straightening. "I just can't stand the idea of losing him. He's the closest thing I have to family. I can't stand to see him in pain and I don't think I can let him go." She stood facing him with quiet dignity, looking a great deal more collected than Jim himself felt at this moment.

"I know the feeling," Kirk said.

The grief hung suspended in the air like a physical thing. Without warning it dropped heavily over the both of them. A great gray, wet cloak that smothered, squeezing them tightly together within its folds.

Breathing was a chore; moving worse. Motion without action. Paralyzed force. Just when Christine thought she would surely suffocate, it was gone as quickly as it had fallen. She scrambled away before it could overtake her again.

Heart still racing, she found herself stopped in front of the shelving, face to face with one of McCoy's miasmal biospheres. Fumbling for words, she had lost her way in the conversation. "Leonard was always fascinated by these," she said to no one in particular.

"Regulan bloodworms?" Kirk asked incredulously, coming over to stand behind her.

She grinned, feeling better already. "No, I think the worms are just an excuse to keep the tanks here." She gestured at the murky mixture. "This one is a microcosm of a haloswamp on Regulus V, but he's got a dozen more like it in the lab. Leonard would use any excuse to go tramping around in bogs and marshes. He insisted they were primordial--the root source of life. He saw the organisms within them as the beginning of everything. He used to spend hours studying the life forms that fed off the decomposing sludge, then track down anyone who would listen and babble on about the miracle of the mire and the circle of life from death.

"Oh shit!" She broke off suddenly.

He looked at her in mild alarm.

"Did you hear me, Captain? I'm talking like he's already dead. What in the world is wrong with me?" She rubbed her forehead and sank back down into the chair.

Kirk didn't hesitate. "Nothing that hasn't gone wrong with every person who has ever loved. We can't have the joy without the grief. It...doesn't work that way. It never has." His tones were clipped. It was the voice of the leader, bound by necessity to lead his people some place he would rather not have them go.

She nodded, comprehending. "The strange part is, I think it is harder on you and me than it is on him. I don't think he really minds dying. He understands more about the end of life than any of the rest of us do. It seems so selfish, but to think about losing him and to have to face those fears without support is about the loneliest feeling I have ever known.

"You asked if he was all right. The funny thing is that I think he might actually be glad in a way to know what's going to happen. How and when things are going to end for him. It sort of takes away the fear of the unknown. Makes it just another, sort of, career change to be planned for."

Kirk's face was hard. "No," he said. "Not one of us is granted that luxury. It's a big bad universe out there, nurse, and a year is an eternity in deep space. None of us can know what fate has in store for us. No one on this ship is promised as much as a year, not as much as a week. Not even a day. Making things right...is a pretty good rule for all of us. Coming to a...separate peace. If we have any gift to give, any kindness to spread, do it now, for none of us are promised tomorrow."

"Fatalism isn't much like you, Captain." She eyed him clinically

"In terms of my ship, no. I run this ship. I control what I can, but in the end man is but a...poor player in this universe. No matter how much knowledge we accumulate, what wonders we achieve, how far we spread, we will never be its master."

"Pretty bleak," she observed.

He never flinched. Looking straight at her he made no effort to conceal the grief that would grant him no quarter. "I am going to miss him more than anyone can ever know." He paused. He seemed about to add something. But in the end "Goodnight, Miss Chapel," was all he said.

"Captain!" She stopped him with the word. "Did you mean it?

He was in the doorway. "Yes, of course. Always," he said, confused.

"No, I mean the part about giving what we can now. Did you mean it?"

"Of course, always," he repeated.

She stood and walked across the room to meet him. Without her regulation boot heels they stood eye to eye with each other, perfectly level. Ranks notwithstanding they were to be equals in this. She took in his tumid lids, the lines of care, the hair mussed from far too many sleepless hours. "You haven't told Mr. Spock?" she guessed.

"No," he said, not following. "McCoy asked me not to."

"Then," she said, absurdly serene, "please don't misunderstand, but I don't want to be alone tonight. If you aren't doing anything else, I would like you to stay."

"Nurse," Kirk said carefully, just beginning to get the picture, "please believe me when I tell you that I understand that very well." He held out his left elbow. She accepted it willingly.

Unable to hold the moment any longer, his voice took on a too familiar lilt. "And, what manner of man could refuse such a fair damsel in distress?"

But his eyes still said simply, "Thank you."

Back in her cabin, Christine adjusted the luminosity to just a few candlepower. She plopped down on the bed and kicked off her slippers. Kirk stood at the divider and just looked in.

"Now that we're here, this feels a little awkward," Christine admitted.

"A little?" Jim snorted. He paced the length of the bed up, down, and stopped. He spread his hands in open entreaty. "I confess, I have absolutely no idea what you want me to do." It was the smile that had felled countless women before her. And one half-human man.

She looked at him with an expression that approached pity. "I don't think it's that complicated. I just want to feel good for a while, know that someone else feels the same way I do and, maybe, find some rest, some peace of a sort." She patted the bed beside her. He sat.

"We don't have to have sex if you don't want to," Christine offered. His eyes shot to her, clearly bemused. For the first time in the conversation she blushed, but her voice held steady. "I mean, I don't know...about you and Mr. Spock. It was my intention to...ease personal problems, not to cause more."

Kirk scooted closer to her until they were thigh to thigh. With just the tips of two fingers he slid the translucent gown off of the one shoulder that had held it improbably in place. Utterly focused, he stroked the creamy skin of her neck, her breast, the tender spot underneath her arm. She shuddered involuntarily at the sensation.

"Christine," Jim said. His eyes were bright, his voice painfully earnest. "If Spock were the kind of man who would begrudge anyone a measure of kindness or a modicum of harmless comfort, I assure you, I wouldn't be married to him."

He brought his hand up to caress her cheek, cup her jaw. She rubbed her face luxuriantly against his hand. Drawn by his strength, she leaned in to kiss him deeply, reverently. She probed fiercely with her tongue as if to reach some hidden core of him. She stretched a hand down the green V-neck firmly stroking his smooth chest, moving down past the waist wrap, down to where the single patch of body hair began.

Instantly hard, Jim groaned into her mouth. He pulled back, grabbed her by the shoulders, distancing them each from the other. "Christine!" He struggled for control, ultimately gracing her with a sheepish smile. "I think this may be your last chance to change your mind."

In answer she tugged firmly on the wrap popping it open. With no hesitation she peeled the shirt backwards, decisively dissipating the isolating hold of his hands.

Kirk struggled out of the shirt. Boots, pants and shorts followed in short order. Christine had already shrugged out of the remainder of the flimsy garment and was appraising his body appreciatively. Naked, he knew his power. He stood before her, an offering and a supplication. She opened her arms and invited him in.

He moved his lips methodically as if to cover every square inch of her skin in kisses. He repeated her name over and over, the syllables barely recognizable as they vibrated into her flesh.

"Oh, yes, Captain, yes!" She sighed and reached down between his legs to feel his desire for her.

Aching, he spread her thighs with his hand. He felt her sex slick and wet, ready for him. With a guttural sound he pushed his face firmly into her cunt, licking and thrusting into her as she had into him. With each thrust his nose jarred the hood of her clit sending her writhing and squirming up the bed. He grabbed her ass and pulled her back into his face. Roughly he sucked her inner lips, running his tongue in circles around the root of her clit.

"OH! Captain! Captain!" she moaned. With each use of his rank his dick leaped and pulsed harder. Suddenly she threw her head back and went rigid, silent, a look of complete rapture on her face. Kirk sucked with all his might. Her firm thighs bit into his cheeks, clamping him in place where she needed him.

He didn't stop until she had pushed his face away with her hand. Laying his cheek against her, he rested momentarily. He inhaled deeply, savoring the musky odor. The rich, ripe female smell of mother earth.

On fire now, he moved instinctively to relieve himself. She cuffed his wrist. "Oh no, Captain, don't you dare come yet." She whispered in his ear, "I want to feel you inside of me."

That was very nearly the end. His penis began to leak ominously. Pushed to brink of some critical limit, he grabbed the base of his dick and squeezed until it hurt. He made a great terrible noise deep in his throat and held until his eyes watered. His balls threatened to explode right there. For a moment he didn't care if they did. Anything for release.

After long seconds, when he thought he might move against the sheet without immediate orgasm, he slid up to kiss just the tip of her nose. "Christine," he said with resignation. "I think, for now, you 'd better just call me 'Jim'."

When at last he had regained some marginal measure of control, he positioned himself over her. "Jim," she said earnestly, "I need to feel the joys of life. Please make it last." At the very thought his dick leapt again, oozing more sticky seed, threatening not to stop. He closed his eyes and it stilled momently.

When he opened them again she was looking up at him, a rapt expression on her face. "You can feel it too, can't you? The immanence. Can you feel it?" she asked. "Can you feel the life force around us? Isn't it beautiful?"

And then he did. Kirk's penis deflated just marginally. As an afterthought, he maneuvered inside of her, but the violent urgency was gone as if it had never been. With wide-eyed wonder Jim began very slowly to undulate within her. Taking nothing but time, they clung to each other rocking and moving to an unheard rhythm all their own.

Some unknown time later Jim felt the mounting tension of her imminent climax and intensified his strokes. Her urgency became his. "Faster...faster...FASTER!" she prodded. She clamped her muscles tightly around him pulling him with her down into the spiral of oblivion.

"SPOCK!" The unexpected resonance of the single word hung suspended in the space between them.

After a minute he pushed himself off of her and over onto his back. "I am sorry," he muttered into the air. Eyes closed, he felt the mattress sink down in the middle and then rapidly spring up.

"No, I'm sorry, Captain," he heard her say. "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all."

He opened his eyes to catch her tying a thick robe tightly around her waist, her back to him. She walked past the partition and out to the anteroom.

"Look," he said sitting up on the edge of the bed, "it doesn't mean anything. Yes, I love Spock, but I'm here with you because I want to be; because we wanted it. And being with you tonight was wonderful. Just what I needed. Just what I still need. "

She had moved to sit behind the desk. She had effectively separated herself from him by ten feet of decking, by thirty inches of Durawood, by one word.

Good going, Jimbo. Great work With a deep breath he got up and crossed to sit across the desk form her, stark naked, not particularly caring.

"Christine, listen, I have no idea why I did that." He placed a hand on the desk. Neutral territory. "But I do know that during orgasm sometimes people are driven to gut actions that can't be explained or rationalized--"

To his utter astonishment, she erupted in gales of spontaneous laughter. "Captain," she said when she could speak again, "is that what you really think?"

"Christine," he said impatiently, "just because I called--"

"No, Captain," she interrupted, "you don't understand at all. You might have been thinking it, but--" She paused. He whole face changed, contorted. She bit her lip. "But it wasn't you who actually called out. It was me!"

Jim gaped at her in pure open-mouthed astonishment.

"I am sorry, Sir. I should have realized that this could happen. It 's just that I felt so alone. I so very much wanted to be with someone who felt the same as I did about Leonard that I wasn't thinking clearly. I wanted to be with someone who would miss him as much as I would; nothing else seemed to matter."

"And nothing else does," Kirk said succinctly.

She reached across the desk and took his hand with gratitude. "Thank you," she said.

Kirk squeezed her hand once and released it. "You don't need to justify anything to me." With a conspiratorial wink he added, "Believe me, I understand...the attraction." His face was innocence itself. "But I am," he chose his word carefully, "...surprised. I thought that your...inclinations towards Mr. Spock were a thing of the past."

She gave him a disdainful look that few mortals would have risked on the captain of the Enterprise. "Well of course. I'm not stupid, you know," she snapped irritably. She massaged her temple in fatigue. "It's just that ever since that day Sargon used me to hide Spock from Henoch, I have been having...I don't know, echoes or something. Some kind of residual effects. It's like traces of Spock's consciousness, or what did he call it? Katra? It's like some part of it was left behind--not really him, but of him. Like a scent or a fingerprint, or a silhouette.

"Usually it's not too bad," she hastened to add. "But sometimes like tonight, it's like he is right there in my head. I'm not sure, but I think it might be because you and he... I mean, I love him of course. He is an amazing man, a dear friend, and a brother in uniform. But not like that--Sir. If you know what I mean. I think that, maybe, something through you might have brought it all up so intensely tonight.

"I really am sorry," she said for the third time. "I should have thought this through better. I didn't mean to bother you with it."

"Bother me?" Kirk barked. "Christine, that was almost a year ago!"

"Yes, Captain, I can tell time." Sarcasm suited her surprisingly well.

Kirk stared at her incredulously. "Nurse, how can you let this go on? Didn't you report it to McCoy?"

Christine gave a short, humorless laugh. "And have him put me under a Siggy scan? You forget, I'm a nurse; I know what Siggy does to your alpha waves! No thank you, I'd rather hear the voices.

"Besides," she said sounding much like a person trying to convince herself, "I thought it would go away."

"A year?" Kirk prompted gently.

She had no answer. She simply lifted her hands in supplication. "What do you think I should have done, Captain?"

He paused. "If this started with a mind-meld of sorts, maybe Spock could undo whatever was done. Wipe away the fingerprints, chase away the shadows."

She shook her head firmly. Jim had to admire her poise. Not everyone could pull off quiet dignity in a terry-cloth robe.

"I really don't want anyone to know, " she confessed. "After Psi 2000, these stupid rumors got started and now people look at me like a lovesick puppy. Even you. My nurses and I bring Medisupp meals to everyone on the sick call roster. But if it's Spock, suddenly plomeek soup gets transmogrified into a wedding banquet. I don't need to add any fuel to that fire."

"You have to admit, it was...dramatic," Kirk quipped.

She pulled a laugh out of somewhere. "At least Sulu looked dashing running around with a sword. He gets to go down as d'Artagnan; I get Quasimodo. I just can't stomach the idea of bringing all that back up."

"I could make it an order," Kirk threatened.

"You would order Mr. Spock to enter my mind against my will?"

"I need my crew at top efficiency," he countered, his face a mask.

"You have concerns regarding my efficiency?" she asked, face every bit as still as his.

Kirk had to concede that this might not have been the right track to take. He looked a little deeper within himself.

"Nurse Chapel," he said. His voice was almost painful with the sudden raw sincerity. "If someone were hurting...and wouldn't let you help, what would you do? How would you feel?" She opened her mouth. He cut her off, shamelessly pressing his advantage. "How can you ask that of me? And what do you think Spock would say if he knew you were in distress...because of him? How can you ask either of us to live with that, nurse?"

He composure broke just a little. She strummed the table nervously with her nails. "I must say Captain, you do have a way with people."

"Mm." He smiled. "I think that's why they let me drive a starship."

Then she laughed outright, eyes shining in acknowledgment of their unspoken pact.

He looked at her chronometer. "It's late," he said. "After alpha shift, then?"

She nodded her assent.

"All right." He patted her hand and stood back up. Looking over at his discarded uniform he seemed to reconsider. "Spock will be asleep for the night." He swaggered just a little. "Do you think I could stay?"

"Yes," she said meeting his eyes quietly. "I would like that." Taking his hand, she allowed herself to be led back to bed. The nursing caduceus glimmered off of the bronze plaque that hung from the wall. The text below it read: To cure sometimes. To comfort always.

"Good morning, Florence," he said, nudging her over the threshold into wakefulness.

"Florence?" she mumbled, not yet willing to surrender the pillow.

"Florence Nightingale: savior of the common soldier," he explained kissing her shoulder.

That got her attention. "Captain," she said, sitting up to rub sleep out of her eyes, "you are hardly common, nor do I think you need a savior."

"No," he said seriously, "but I did last night."

She chuckled under her breath and started to swing her legs out of the bed. He stopped her. "Hey, where are you going?"

"Sickbay. We have a 0700 quality control review. "

"Well," he said, not releasing his hold, "then you have some time. It's not even 0615 yet."

She looked up at his earnest face. "I really should go. Leonard will be there early and I'd like to get him alone--try to get him to talk to me." She let out a breath. "And you have to admit, this is awkward."

"Awkward? How?" His face became cherubic.

For once she appeared genuinely discomfited. "Well...this!" She gestured over the bed. "You, me, his katra--or whatever." She groped for words. "You're the Captain, his husband! It's a little weird."

He grabbed her by the shoulders, hard enough to hurt.

"Captain--" she protested.

He gripped harder. "Christine," he said with a burning intensity usually reserved for moments of life and death. "There is nothing, I repeat nothing, weird about two people sharing love. At no time. Under no circumstances. Life is too short, too precious not to use every allotted moment to its fullest. And anyone who doesn't understand that has no place in deep space."

Oblivious to the pressure searing through her shoulders she reassessed this man. "Captain, I think words like that are why they let you drive the Enterprise."

With a nod, he let her get up and dressed.

Spock was still in their bed as Kirk strode back into their cabin precisely at 0630. "Morning," said Kirk cheerfully as he peeled off his shirt.

"You did not sleep here," observed Spock, rising to greet him with a kiss.

"No," Jim agreed. He efficiently divested himself of the rest of his clothing. "I was with Christine Chapel."

"Indeed," Spock noted, reaching out to flake a dried bit of something off of Jim's chest.

Jim had the grace to look abashed--for a moment; it didn't last long. "She needed someone. I helped her," he said simply.

"Fascinating," was Spock's only comment. Only one who knew him intimately would have dared call that expression amusement.

"I need a shower," said Jim with a chuckle.

"Yes, you do," Spock agreed.

Whistling, Jim took himself into the head.

He re-emerged a few minutes later in drawstring gym pants. His hair was matted to his head in smooth golden ringlets. Steam still rose from the broad shoulders as he crossed the room, towel draped around his neck. "Better?" he asked, kissing Spock lightly on the forehead.

Spock was fully dressed and seated at the computer. "Much," Spock said distracted by his work.

First officer turned to the captain. "Paleontology requested the transfer of Technicians Chin and Singh 12.4 days ago. They have yet to hear back. Botany requisitioned 3.7 kilotonnes of ureoplasm 14.2 days ago and as of yet have not had a response..."

"Spock...Spock," Jim said, sliding in to sit on his knee. "Can any of this wait until we are officially on duty?"

"Certainly, but it would be more efficient to--"

"Efficiency is not the primary thing on my mind," said Jim, nuzzling his neck. The towel lay abandoned on the deck. Water still steamed from his warm skin where it would rise up to Spock's sensitive nose. Kirk rubbed sensuously against the soft velour, acutely aware of the effect he was having.

When could speak again, Spock's voice was raspy. "Jim, this is illogical. We are expected on the Bridge in twenty-two minutes--"

"Mm," murmured Jim. "If I don't excite you enough to get you off that fast--"

"On the contrary. It is your state that concerns me. You may well be depleted as a result of your recent exploits."

"Want to try me?" Kirk challenged as he reached his hand down to Spock's penis. Deftly he rolled the velveteen organ around in his fingers. Then, just as suddenly, he pulled away. He stood and with one sharp tug, released the drawstring at his waist. The pants puddled to the deck and Jim stepped cleanly aside, an impish grin smeared wide across his face.

James Tiberius Kirk was in his glory.

In the manner of one long-practiced, Spock prepared himself deflect this man's will. His face smoothed to an impenetrable mask. There was no crack, no ripple, no finger hold, no possible point of entry upon it. He raised one eyebrow, ready for the inevitable onslaught of poorly timed lust and illogical desire.

But contrary to his every expectation, it didn't come. Jim stood stock-still. After the familiar raising of that eyebrow, the most amazing display of expressions played across Kirk's face. The quirky smile became sheer wonder, then something else entirely. By the end Jim's face held such depth of unrestrained affection that it was almost painful to behold.

Mercifully, Jim looked down. From the side he bent to wrap damp arms around Spock's neck and bowed his head until it rested against the his temple. Jim placed on chaste kiss on a pointed ear and then simply hung on for dear life.

"Spock," the rolling voice whirled through the Vulcan's ear. "I love you. I love you so much that sometimes I just don't know what to do."

In that fraction of an instant, Spock crumbled completely. He pulled Kirk into his arms and kissed him thirstily. Jim responded in kind. He slid hungry hands under the uniform to roam the exotic terrain of hte Vulcan chest. Spock reached down and took Jim's penis in hand, bringing him to full arousal in less than a minute.

With a gasp, Jim pulled away. He cupped his own genitals keeping them working in time with the rhythm building in his pelvis. "What is it that you want?" he asked.

"You," Spock answered. "The manner is not important."

Jim grinned from ear to ear. "Then I think you should take off your pants."

With no hesitation, Spock complied.

Stepping out of his trousers, Spock moved to bend over the berth. Jim drew a sharp intake of breath at the beauty of the sight. Spock reached up to the shelf and palmed a cylinder, then held it out behind him. Stroking himself harder, Jim accepted.

With a groan he could not quite stifle, Jim threw himself down to rub the length of his hairless torso over the glorious curves of Spock's backside. The feel of silky flesh gliding over silky flesh was exquisite. Had they more time, he could spend hours losing himself in this chaste sensation alone. But today they did not. That luxury would have to wait for another day. Jim activated the dispenser and without further ado, sunk himself into the depths of his love.

Both gasped simultaneously at the intensity. Recovering, Spock took his own penis in hand and began to stoke his shaft. Jim held Spock's hips and began to move. "I love you. I love you. I love you," Jim repeated hypnotically, driving himself to ever-greater fervor with each thrust.

Jim tried to wait for Spock, but it made little difference. In less than two minutes it was over for both of them.

Replete, they pulled themselves up and onto the berth. Jim wrapped his arms even more tightly around Spock's waist, once again astonished at the perfection of their unity. He nuzzled one pointed ear. Picking his moment, he took the plunge. "Spock, I need a favor."

Chapel was still plowing through hematology studies when the door opened behind her. "Oh, Mr. Spock. Is there something I can do for you? Or, did the Captain send you?"

"Something like that." Jim brushed brusquely past Spock to stand in front of her desk. "Apparently, you two can't be trusted without my supervision." His voice hardened. "You're late, nurse. Alpha shift ended two hours ago. We had a date."

"I've been checking studies in progress. Canopus VI is so close to an intervention at the proerythroblast stage--" Her voice trailed off as she realized her gaff. "But, of course, you didn't come here to discuss hematology."

"No," Kirk said, "In fact, I wasn't planning on coming to Sickbay at all. Shouldn't we adjourn to someplace...more private?"

"Really, Captain, I'm fine. You're making a big deal about nothing." She made as if to sit back down.

"Nurse Chapel," Spock interjected. "I am told that you possess something of mine. I would like it back. I trust that now is not too inconvenient?"

Face twitching with bemusement she shook her head at the two of them. "Does anything ever stand against the two of you?" she wondered.

Kirk gave Spock a sidelong wink of triumph. "We really don't recommend it," said Kirk.

Spock shook his head in doleful agreement, "No."

To Christine, entering her cabin that night felt like beaming down to an unmapped planet. Apparently she was the only one. The men seemed as assured as if they were all about to review crew fitness reports. Why not, she thought. No one is about to go poking around in the cobwebs of their minds.

She perched her butt awkwardly on the edge of the desk. Her mini-dress folded inward to the very limit of her crotch. She crossed one long boot over the other, "Well, now what?" she asked. To her dismay, Spock turned upon her with a look that pierced straight through her being. "That, Miss Chapel, depends upon you."

"Me?" she ventured tentatively. "Frankly, I'd like to forget the whole thing. "

"I believe that is what we are trying to achieve," Spock said, not entirely without humor.

She laughed nervously. "That isn't what I meant."

Kirk sat down on the bed to watch.

Spock replied patiently. "Nurse Chapel, I find your attitude inexplicable. For a health care provider to refuse an indicated medical procedure because it may be uncomfortable, is patently illogical."

She snorted. "A cervical cancer screen is uncomfortable! This--" her voice trailed off. Collecting herself, she straightened to face Spock head on. "And I'm not refusing. I'm just a little afraid."

"Afraid of discomfort? It is my sole intention to relieve your discomfort. I do not believe the meld will be unpleasant."

Unexpectedly, she broke into a brilliant smile. "Neither do I, Mr. Spock. I think that is exactly what I am afraid of."

"That response, nurse, I find even more illogical. We are united, you and I, not only through the past blending of our katras, but also, as is all the crew, through Starfleet and beyond. Surely time has adequately proven that more than once. There is no rational argument for withholding your mind from mine. As there is none for me to constrain mine from you."

She could not quite stifle a short gasp. Spock reached forward and lifted her chin with one crooked knuckle. He said, "And if there is pleasure to be found in the situation, than that is a serendipitous benefit as well."

He studied her face as if for the first time. "There is a halo around your eyes." She tried to nod, found her face fixed firmly by his finger. She had to make do with her voice. "They are called 'rings of purpose,'" she said. "They are supposed to signify something about one's personality, but I can't remember what."

"Mm," he acknowledged. Gently, so gently, his hand drifted to the meld points.

Suddenly she caught his wrists. "I'm sorry," she said, sounding as surprised as anyone at her actions. "I thought I could do this, but it's just too much. I'm not sure it will work anyway. Right now I can't feel anything in my mind except me."

Spock dropped his hands. "Nurse," he said coolly, "may I make a suggestion? As your perception was most recently strongest through intimacies with the captain, and since he seems to be more able to induce...relaxation, recreating last night's scenario may be the most expeditious way to proceed."

"Are you suggesting sex? Now? With you here?" She sounded genuinely surprised, but in no way alarmed.

Spock replied, "Nurse Chapel, it is generally true that the shortest distance between two points is through a third point. If you object, physical sexuality is certainly not necessary. There are other techniques of psychic healing which may be employed. However I suspect that this may be, by far, the most pleasant option."

Christine studied him openly. "You don't mind? " she asked. "The personal exposure? The indignity of coping with illogical human passions? It's not very Vulcan."

Spock shook his head. "On the contrary, nurse. I submit that we three have already shared mind and bodies in such a way that there is little remaining privacy to lose. The shame would be in my failure to follow the logical course of action solely on the basis of a baseless concern for propriety."

She still looked skeptical. "And," Spock added, "I came to help. I would be very much like to do so."

Grinning, Kirk moved in behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. "Trust him," he said into her ear, but looking straight at Spock. "He knows what he's doing."

"You know," she said for lack of a better response, "no one will ever believe this."

"That's the breaks," Kirk said.

He pulled her gently back towards the berth until his knees buckled against the edge. Willingly, she went with him. He slid back to recline against the headshelf and pulled her gently after him to nestle against his chest. He rested one hand on her stomach and very lightly let his fingertips dance over the fabric sheathing her waist and belly. His other hand caressed her bare thigh, kneading it methodically. She closed her eyes and concentrated on nothing but the rise and fall of his chest, the feel of his hands, the moisture of his breath on her neck.

Spock trailed them into the bedroom. He stood before them, "If you are ready, Miss Chapel." Kirk clamped her wrists securely with one hand and pressed them tightly against her thigh. Eyes still closed, she nodded her assent.

His right hand molded itself to her face. "Our minds are moving closer--closer. Our thoughts are becoming one thought. Our beings, one being." His voice was hypnotic. Christine shifted against Jim's crotch grinding roughly against his sex with her ass. He forced their joined hands into her thigh, hard, and her movements stilled leaving her pressed tightly against him.

Spock shifted one finger and Christine let out a groan. Kirk let loose her wrists to slide his hand up and underneath her panty stroking her rhythmically. She pressed back hard against his chest compelling Spock to lean in after them.

"Yes, yes," she murmured in tempo. "But he's not here." She kept her eyes squeezed tightly closed. Kirk waltzed his other hand up from her belly to cup her breasts, still massaging lightly. "He's just not here!" she repeated more urgently.

Spock lightened the mindtouch momentarily. She furrowed her brow and tried to explain. "It's like trying to focus on something you can only see out of the corner of your eye. Every time I turn to look it vanishes. It's so close, but right where I never can--never will--catch it. It's so frustrating! Last night it was all so clear. I just don't know how I can get him any closer." Nonplused, she shook her head.

With a quirky slant of his mouth, Kirk looked up at Spock. He took in the aesthetic features, the lean lines, the familiar hips, the ripening crotch. He reached out and stroked his inner leg. "Let's see if we can't get him more involved," he said seductively. With a rueful smile that was not quite an apology, he shifted his palm up to cup Spock's rapidly engorging penis; softly he began to knead.

Spock's eyes rolled back in his head. His entire body was taut with strain. Christine rocked sensuously, her pelvis rebounding between Jim's hard sex and his harder fingers, her head rolling between Spock's hot hand and the pulsing hollow of Jim's neck. Jim's eyes burned intensely, victory in sight.

"Oh yes, that's better. Oh, yes. Yes, yes, yes!" called Christine. "Oh, yes!"

Suddenly, "NO!" Her body bucked violently. She cringed as if in pain. Kirk's arms curled around her reflexively. Spock took a step back, dazed.

Blinking, Kirk came back to himself. "What happened?" he asked.

Christine stayed curled, supported by his arms, collecting her breath. Clearing his throat, Spock answered. "I could no longer control the meld," he said. "The additional physical input was a...significant distraction." He eyed Jim in mild reproof.

"Just trying to help," Jim volunteered. "Nurse, are you all right?"

"Fine, Captain," she said, the color coming back into her face. "That was just...a little disappointing." Spock raised both eyebrows. Jim grinned.

"Okay," Jim said. "Let's try again. This time no...distractions." Spock eyed him significantly. Jim managed to look a little contrite. Then he shrugged it off with an angelic grin. Spock forgave him everything. How could he ever do otherwise?

Spock said, "Christine, if you please."

Christine searched his face. It was the impenetrable mask of Vulcan. But his eyes told a different story. Willingly she bowed her head to meet his fingers.

Kirk focused just his thoughts on Spock's body. His fingers stroked the swollen roots of Christine's clitoral nub, skated over the tender place between leg and pelvis. He was touching her, but thinking of Spock touching him. Touching her, but watching Spock's penis jerk against the taut fabric, feeling Spock's hand on her temple. Touching her, but feeling him under his fingers. Somehow, through their marriage bond and the mindlink they were one.

Christine groaned. "Yes," Spock said slowly, "yes." His right hand remained frozen upon her face. His left hand moved to her right. He picked it up and placed it squarely on the bulge in his groin.

They gave a collective groan of satisfaction. Her world contracted to the feel of Spock's erection in her hand and he heat of his breath on her face. Something in her mind cried for the sweet familiar feel of Spock deep inside of her, a feeling her body had never known. Not sure whether she was feeling Jim's urgency or her own, she clumsily unclipped the fastenings of Spock's trousers. Jim gasped in relief when Spock's cock sprang free.

Feeling the ache in Christine's body and soul, Jim worked his fingers inside of her and felt her respond, clutching at him, pulling him more deeply inside. He bared his own sex and rhythmically pushed both their bodies to ever-greater heights of desire.

Christine almost came undone when she finally had Spock's lean cock in her hand. With a hoarse cry she worked it tenderly, feeling the resonance of the men's love somewhere deep within herself. Kirk felt it too and rocked his hips in empty desperation. Inarticulate now, he ripped her panty out of the way and he wedged his bulge in between her round cheeks. Through the mystery of their union Jim sent a silent plea for the succor of his lover. A plea that no part of Spock could ever do anything but answer.

Helpless in the tidal pull of the humans' emotions, Spock was sucked relentlessly into the swell. He dropped his free hand down behind Christine, and with inhuman strength, pulled her up to her feet, away from Kirk. She went eagerly.

With the brief ripped open, her torn uniform rose up around her chest and bunched underneath her breasts. With a thrust of his pelvis he forced his penis against her yielding belly to assuage the need that burned equally among the three of them. Tense with their combined desires, Spock dug his fingers into the curve of her ass.

Jim felt it too, the infinitesimal relief that then only caused the fire to burn higher. He stroked himself feeling every movement, every touch of Vulcan man against Human woman. He thought in passing that this might well drive him mad.

Christine writhed against Spock, undulating greedily against his penis. When she felt the first strands of slick stickiness slide between them, she could take it no more. She threw her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist, trusting herself to his strength.

With a strangled cry he lifted her one-handed under the ass and held her tight, his penis trapped between their bodies. With a backward tilt of her pelvis and a push of her thighs against his hips, she maneuvered herself over the tip. Almost sobbing with relief, she lowered herself down onto him.

All three cried out as one. Guiding her with his hand, Spock had her. She had Spock. They were one. Their world exploded.

Then they fell apart.

Spock collapsed to his knees. Christine fell to the bed shaking in wonder, dizzy with the discovery of what a full union could be.

But Jim was still on fire. He pushed one leg up against the Vulcan, reveling in the simple contact. With his right hand he pumped himself frantically. Kirk's face was pinched, his body quivered uncontrollably. The rhythmic stroking of hand on shaft was rapidly become more agony than ecstasy.

"Maybe I should go," Christine offered.

Spock said, regarding her evenly, "Do you think so, Christine? It is, after all, your own bed."

So be it. She cradled Jim's left side with her body, leaving plenty of room for his right hand to continue its task. Her crotch nestled tightly against his hip. The torn fabric tickled her crack. Her head sagged to his chest. Fervently, she raked her nails over the sinuous rills of his twitching torso. One arm locked around her, he pulled her ever more tightly against himself taking her breath away. With a whimper she bit down on his muscled chest. He froze with the shock, his breath one ragged draw. Tenderly she inched her lips forward to his nipple and sucked rhythmically, giving and taking in turn.

Reeling with desire, Jim reached his right hand out to Spock. "I could use some help here," he choked.

Spock kneeled against the bed, head propped on one elbow, trousers already re-zipped, and tunic already smoothed. He regarded them with almost scientific interest. "Indeed, Jim? You appear to be managing quite nicely." But his voice was far thicker than usual.

The plangent tones of Spock's desire torqued the ache in Jim's balls to an unbearable tension. His face screwed into the very image of pain itself. "Spock," he implored, "don't make me beg."

Only Jim Kirk could be so brazen. Spock crawled up onto the bunk and with a shudder swept one strong hand up Jim's thigh and dug his fingers firmly into the tender flesh. He fell face first into Jim's groin, easily engulfing the whole of the turgid shaft with his mouth.

Jim was dissolving rapidly. With one fluid motion Spock dragged one long finger through the length of Christine's dripping crotch and rammed it up Jim's ass.

Jim came with a force that could have blown apart a planet.

Enervated and replete, all three lay puddled on the bed. Jim had one arm wrapped casually around each of them. Out of nowhere, his belly began to quicken in ripples and a low chuckle rose up in his throat.

Curious, Spock raised his head just a little to search Jim's face. Indolently Jim lifted one heavy eyelid to survey the two officers nodding on his chest. "Nurse Chapel," he said, "you are absolutely right. This is most definitely a little weird!"

Hours later she awoke in the dark with a muscular arm draped over her stomach and a sharp shoulder digging into her back. She was cramped, hot, sticky, and couldn't remember the last time she had felt this good. With a start, she realized what else was different.

"Sirs," she exclaimed into the night air, "I think he's gone!" Coarse hair scraped across her belly as another arm reached to join the first. Their clasped hands settled on her navel.

"That's nice, nurse," came the sleepy reply. All three drifted off back to sleep.
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